New Delhi: A controversy has broken out over the last minute cancellation of a planned briefing on surgical strikes at the meeting of the Parliamentary Standing Committee for Defence on Friday with two senior Congress members dubbing it "highly unacceptable" and pitching for bringing back the original agenda.
"The decision not to brief the committee over surgical strikes under the garb of secrecy only amounts to 'lack of confidence' in the Members of Parliament, who are in the committee and who are bound by the oath of secrecy. This position is absolutely unacceptable to us," party General Secretaries Ambika Soni and Madhusudan Mistry said in a joint statement.
BJP leader Subramanian Swamy, who is also a member of the Standing Committee, however, differed saying the decision should be left to the army. Mistry said they have written to Committee's Chairman BC Khanduri telling him the move is "highly unacceptable".
"We are deeply disappointed over the last minute change of agenda," they said, adding "We demand that the original agenda of the forthcoming Committee meeting should be maintained and also defence officials inform the Committee about the number of surgical strikes carried out since 2004."
"It is our firm belief that the officials should brief the standing committee members as they briefed the leaders of the opposition parties on the above said issues." They insisted it's high time the attitude of the defence officials towards the standing committee members "change for the better" and committee is informed of the "shortcomings" the forces are facing in combating adversaries on borders.
"We believe that the agenda must have been fixed after consultation with top officials of defence ministry. We see no reason why this has been changed and that too at the last minute," they said.
They said this is not the first such instance and the agenda of such meetings has been changed earlier too. They complained that it's unfortunate that they come to know of the shortage of arms and ammunition to the Special Forces, who carried out surgical strikes through newspaper, but the army officials are not ready to discuss or answer queries to be raised in the meeting of Standing Committee Members.
Speaking separately of the two Congress leaders, BJP's MP Swamy said, "If the Army feels that something has to be kept secret for sometime, there is no way we in the committee can challenge it. The Committee chairman is consulted by the Army chief and the chairman also interacts with the government."
However, Soni and Mistry blamed the Defence Ministry for not presenting their policies and preparedness to meet emergency situations, despite repeated mentions at the meetings.
Besides, they said the ministry has not come out with valid reasons for delay in acquisition of Defence equipment including arms and ammunition. "The Make in India initiative also seems to be a complete failure in the Defence sector," they opined.